Monday, September 25, 2017

Herschel Island: The abandoned island of the Arctic

In the north of Canada, 5 km (3 miles) away from the shore, there's an abandoned island with long history but no population. Herschel Island, known as Qikiqtaruk ("island") in the Inuvialuktun language, had been inhabited by Thule people for at least 1,000 years according to archaeological excavations. The first European who set foot on the island was Sir John Franklin on 15 July, 1826. At that time the island was a base for whaling, fishing and hunting and was inhabited by 200 to 2000 people.

In the late 19th century, Herschel Island became a whaling base after whalers discovered that the Beaufort Sea was one of the last refuges of the depleted bowhead whale. At the height of the Beaufort Sea whaling period (1893–94) the number of residents on the island was estimated at 1,500, making it the largest Yukon community at that time. That was also when a number of buildings still standing today were built on the island. The most prominent of those was Community House built in 1893. It included a recreation room, an office for the manager and storekeeper, and storage facilities. Today it is well preserved and it's the island's visitor center. Another building, known as the Bonehouse which was built in the mid-1890s as a storehouse for baleen (whalebone) was were the first court case in the Arctic took place in 1924. 

Whaling subsided after the first decades of the 20th century but Herschel island saw some renewed activity in the 1970s when it became a temporary safe harbour for oil-drilling ships. The last family permanently living there left the island in 1987. From that year, Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park was established, encompassing the whole island. It is jointly managed by The Government of Yukon and the Inuvialuit. The park is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protected as a cultural and also natural site.

SEE ALSO: More abandoned islands around the world // More abandoned places in Canada // LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES
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Monday, September 18, 2017

The abandoned trains of an old British railway station in Brazil

A few miles outside Sao Paulo, sits the picturesque village of Paranapiacaba. It was established in the middle of the 19th century by the British-owned São Paulo Railway Company. Designed by Jeremy Bentham according to a prison model style, it was the operational headquarters of the British railway company.

The British had built the zig-zag railway line in the hilly terrain to export coffee beans from the area through the port Santos. For 30 years Paranapiacaba prospered and at one time about 4,000 workers, mostly British citizens, lived there. When automated machines replaced the funicular, the population declined and many buildings were abandoned. The last steam train was decommissioned in 1982. 

Even though only about 1,000 people live in Paranapiacaba today, the village's abandoned buildings have been well preserved as the government of Brazil has declared it a historic district and has promoted tourism.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

Europe's largest abandoned underground military air base

It used to be one of the largest military complexes in Europe but it was destructed to keep it from falling into the enemy's hands. Željava Air Base was built by Yugoslavia's communist government starting in 1948 just on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Known by the code name 'Objekat 505', construction took about 20 years and cost approximately $6 billion, making it one of the largest and most expensive military construction projects in Europe. Yugoslavia's communist government chose the site, below Mount Pljesevica, for its strategic location. The role of the facility was to establish, integrate, and coordinate a nationwide early warning radar network for Yugoslavia, similar to the American NORAD. With radars on top of the mountain, the base was built in an ideal location.

The facility had 5 runways and within the immediate vicinity of the base, there were numerous short-range mobile tracking and targeting radars, surface to air missile sites, mobile surface-to-air missile interceptor systems, and various other supporting facilities. 

What made this base special though were its underground facilities. The tunnels ran a total length of 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) and the bunker had four entrances protected by 100-ton pressurized doors, three of which were customized for use by fixed-wing aircraft. The complex included an underground water source, power generators, crew quarters and other strategic military facilities. It also housed a mess hall that could feed 1,000 people simultaneously, along with enough food, fuel, and arms to last 30 days without resupply. Fuel was supplied by a 20-kilometer (12.4 mile) underground pipe network.

The airbase was last used extensively during the Yugoslav Wars. In 1991, the Yugoslav People's Army destroyed the runways during its withdrawal by filling pre-built spaces for this purpose with explosives and detonating them. The destruction was completed the following year by the forces of the Military of Serbian Krajina which detonated an additional 56 tons of explosives, to make the facilities unusable by the enemies.

The destruction of the base caused serious environmental damage in the area. It is said that there are still undetonated explosives in the vicinity of the base and accidents have occurred periodically. Today the former military base serves as a waypoint for illegal immigrants while the local government has launched an initiative to use one of the runways as an airport.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Inside North Korea's abandoned 'Hotel of Doom'

It was supposed to become the world's tallest hotel. Instead, it became the world's tallest abandoned building. The pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel is 330 metres (1,080 ft) tall and one of the most prominent features of Pyongyang's skyline. The structure consists of 105 floors and it was originally intended to house five revolving restaurants, and between 3,000 to 7,665 guest rooms

Construction began in 1987 and it was North Korea's response to other high-rise development taking place in cities around the West and Asia during the Cold War. For North Korean leadership, it was also an attempt to bring western investors into the marketplace. The hotel was scheduled to open in June 1989 for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, but problems with building methods and materials delayed completion.

In 1992, after it reached its architectural height, construction halted due to the economic crisis and famine in North Korea following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. By then, the hotel's construction cost $750 million, consuming 2% of North Korea's GDP. For over a decade, the unfinished building sat vacant and without windows, fixtures, or fittings, appearing as a massive concrete shell while A rusting construction crane remained at the top.

In 2008, construction resumed by the Egyptian Orascom company. The company had also made a deal to operate North Korea's telecommunications network and installed antennas on top of the building. By 2011 work had finished. Ryogyong Hotel was fitted with windows but not much work had taken place in the hotel's interior. Since then, there have been many rumors of the hotel finally opening but until today it remains unoccupied. 

SEE ALSO: More abandoned skyscrapers around the world // More abandoned hotels // More abandoned places in North Korea // LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES
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